Dexter speaks his truth

Big sign Winnipegosis

A Winnipegosis –  small town in Manitoba or medical condition

“If residents of Winnipeg are called Winnipeggers, are the 600-odd people who live in Winnepegosis known as Winnepegosisers? Sounds a bit ‘hoser-ish.’” –the Dude.

The above quote says everything you need to know about the level of conversation as the truck drives itself down straight and flat highways with the Dude occasionally moving the steering wheel a half inch to either side.

I’d like to know how he got top billing on this blog while I, with my legitimate ‘Dood” lineage, am relegated to third banana status, and further humiliated by being labelled simply as The Dog.

Dexter snoozes

Might as well grab a quick snooze while the humans look at stuff

Most of you know me as Dexter, the Meandering Maloney’s sweet-natured companion, affectionate and laid back, always on the lookout for a head scratch or a bum noogie. The oldies’s great adventure is putting my amiable disposition to the test. Sure, I’ve got three dog beds in the truck’s back seat and plenty of food and water, but the Dood does not live on creature comforts alone. I need intellectual stimulation and as I indicated at the beginning, the cab of the truck is a black intellectual void. And what’s worse there’s nothing to see out the windows. Grey fields, grey sky, grey water and a barely discernible grey horizon.

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Try looking at this all day

Back in Kaleden I had the run of the neighbourhood, friends who gave me cookies and plenty of deer to bark at. I could sniff the neighbour dog’s bum anytime. No fuss. I put up with ridiculously early morning walks with the Dame and being expected to pee and poo on cue because I knew I could go back home and snooze until mid-morning when the Dude gets up.

The Dude’s natural tendency towards laziness suited me fine at home. His big exertion of the day often amounted to going to the beach to smoke a cigar and knock back and can of Red Bull. I could go for a drink in the lake, chew old deer bones and sniff around while he blew smoke at the water. Now the Dude sometimes gets up as early as 9:30 and the Dame has us both on the go before noon.

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What’s with all the churches in Dauphin, was there a sale on minarets?

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Yawn…church #2

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Fire halls sure are fancy in Dauphin

How many Ukrainian Churches can one dog look at? Maybe they’re better in full colour but I’m here to tell you that from three feet off the ground one grey minaret looks like any other. I don’t get it. These two haven’t set foot inside a church in dog’s years.

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Train stations, The Dame is all over these

And railway stations. What’s up with that? Brick piles with tracks running alongside. Of course, it’s not all tedious. I’m keeping in shape on bike ride runs through small town neighbourhoods. Sometimes I get lucky and a yard dog comes snarling at the fence. Lucky for them I’m trained to resist trouble. Still, it’s fun to see them all frustrated as I prance by. In one campsite I got an off-leash shot at a big jack rabbit. That hopping thing generates the closest thing I’ve seen to warp speed. The dratted rabbit’s easy escape left an embarrassing taste and the Dude, not unexpectedly, rubbed it in with a derisive “Nice try, Dexter.”

It’s true I get a lot of attention from the geezers at the RV parks. A dog over six inches stands out in these places. Every night it’s the same thing, the geezers take their precious little poofters for a stroll around the grounds. Try and get up close for a bum sniff and the poofters freak out. Honestly, as if I could be bothered.


Thank Gawd I’ve got my monkey to talk to

Here Moosey, Moosey, Moosey

The Dauphin bayou campground

Camping near the Dauphin Bayou

Leaving Yorkton, Mean Machine purring like a hyper-caffeinated cougar, we head for Dauphin Manitoba. This is not a planned stop; the trip is a shoot-from-the-hip, dart-on-the-board type of adventure. Not a comforting thought for those who live life with electronic organizer at the ready.

When you think of Manitoba what comes to mind? The Dame’s perception is clouded by childhood memories of family outings in Shilo–Brother #1 screaming as a bloated bloodsucker is carefully removed from his foot by a lighted cigarette, and Brother #1 again (apparently a magnet for childhood drama) being rushed to a clinic to have a tick removed from his belly.

Manitoba is the province of lakes. Forget that “Friendly Manitoba” label. How can you guarantee that anyway? One surly guy at a convenience store can ruin the whole provincial image, calling your province “Mostly Friendly Manitoba” is probably a safer bet.

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Come on in the water’s fine!

One thing you don’t expect to see in Manitoba is a mountain. When you live in B.C. you become blasé about mountains, they are just there blocking out the sun in early evening. We are startled when visitors from other countries gush, as if they just sprouted from the earth to become a photo backdrop.

Manitobans celebrate their mountain; the federal government even built a park around it; Riding Mountain National Park, just south of Dauphin. We set out to experience our own mountain moment.

Can you point me in the direction of your mountain

Can you point me in the direction of your mountain

Hmmm, okay, well… perhaps we’re jaded, maybe our definition of mountain and/or hill needs to be adjusted, tweaked a bit to include the broad spectrum of vertical rock formations that Canada has to offer.

The park looms above the waterlogged prairie, a giant bump on the horizon. No white-capped peaks; in fact, no peaks at all. Don’t get me wrong, the park is beautiful. Lakes shimmer and gleam around each corner, a bounty of hiking trails lead off in all directions.

Mountain climbing in Manitoba

Mountain climbing in Manitoba

Inexplicably, two red Adirondack chairs sit empty atop a bump on the bump. We hike up to discover an amazing prairie panorama. The Town of Clear Lake is a post card, complete with outdoor cafés, tourist shops and rangers walking around in park uniforms.

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Clear Lake Resort where Easter lasts all summer

Riding Mountain is also a safe haven for moose. The mighty, comical Canadian icons apparently abound in the park. There are signs dotting the road warning unwary travelers that a moose might dash across the road at any time. The Dame is ecstatic, camera at the ready. A moose sighting in the wild, does it get any better? That bear, crouched in the bush at the side of the road… we can see those at home, in fact three strolled down our road last fall. I’m looking for the money shot,Bullwinkle in the flesh.

Here Moosey, Moosey, Moosey…

Somehow I thought they would be bigger

Somehow I thought they would be bigger

The Truck Whisperer

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The sun sets on Golden Pond in Yorkton

The Mean Towing Machine, as the Dude likes to refer to the truck, shrieked and whistled its way across the prairies, its high, attention-demanding pitch warning wayward gophers out of its path. Its need for attention coupled with our eastern trajectory brought us to Yorkton, Sask. where the diesel truck whisperer attends to wounded machines in blue coveralls.

“Help us, we pleaded, this incessant whistling sound is driving us mad.”

“No need to beg,” replied the Truck Whisperer politely after noting our B.C. plates. “We accept B.C. money at par and I am here to help. Come back at four, my work will be done”.

The Truck Whisperer's secret lair

The Truck Whisperer’s secret lair

Set up at the City Campground on the edge of town, we explored on two wheels, (four, actually, if you count both bikes), Dexter in tow on leash. Yorkton exemplifies the changing Saskatchewan. Farming still rules. Huge machines of unknowable purpose, driven by John Deere-hatted men, lumber down the potholed highways sharing space with SUV’s and expensive trucks, fueled by potash and energy money.

The town’s wide, treed streets and neat homes give off a Mayberry aura and one half expects to see young Opie or Beaver Cleaver two-wheeling out of a yard hell-bent on adventure, Yorkton-style, with Aunt Bea or June Cleaver clucking at them motherly from a front porch. The linear park around the city beckons.

Like many small prairie towns, Yorkton has its landmark, and this one is big. It looms above the trees and rooftops like a scaled down concrete version of the CN tower with “Yorkton” in 20 foot letters across its face. It might hold water. During the dirty thirties, Al Capone funneled bootleg whiskey through Saskatchewan. Draw your own conclusions about what the “water” tower actually contains.

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Carved Miranda ponders a run for Mayor of Yorkton

“You’re from B.C., what are you doin’ in Saskatchewan?”

We’ve been asked this question numerous times when people learn we’re from God’s country. We stare back at them blankly for a moment before pointing out the obvious blessings we see through new eyes.

Big sky, prairie winds, rolling wheat fields, mournful train whistles in the night, flat biking trails, wetlands dotted with reeds and filled with birdsong, kindly people who offer to park your RV for you, a Diesel shop owner who fits in a needy traveler on short notice. These are a few of our favourite Saskatchewan things.

Oh, and by the way, the high-pitched whistling sound (kaching, kaching) was nothing more than air being forced through the vents of Mean Machine’s new fifth wheel tailgate…

I know you said it would be flat

Let me know if you spot a tree

Secrets of Saskatoon

The Mighty Saskatchewan river

The Mighty Saskatchewan river

Okay I admit it, I was wrong. I had pictured Saskatoon as this outpost in the middle of blowing wheat fields, where kindly farm people in green ‘Riders’ jackets roamed the streets, exchanging pleasantries about the weather.

Saskatoon is happening. Split down the middle by the mighty Saskatchewan River, the city has fantastic walk/bike trails running the length of the city and has even installed an all-season outdoor gym in case you get the urge to stop and put in 15 minutes of cross-fit training. The 3 D’s cycled from the “Gordon Howe campground” (no Gordie nicknames here please, he is an icon in these parts) to the downtown center with The Dog happily taking point. Flat trails, water views, funky art installations, where are the wheat fields!!

A boy and his dog

A Dude and his Dog cycle the trails of Saskatoon

And the food! They have great restaurants and pubs filled with trendy bearded hipsters sipping craft beers with a side of cauliflower fritters and Duck sliders. Where is the meatloaf and mashed potatoes?

Traveling takes a toll on a girl’s toes and The Dog’s famously curly locks. Saskatoon had our backs. A shop downtown specializing in braided cornrows, with a sketchy facade and a collection of mounted wigs everywhere you looked, was the first stop for a pedicure emergency. Job done, toes buffed, painted and sassy-looking, it was The Dog’s turn. A couple of pounds of fur later, his head resembling a gone to seed dandelion stalk, The Dog emerges from the salon.

One for every occasion

I’ve got one for every day of the week!

Little secret here, I love museums. I love pulling back the curtain on what was, on how much has changed in a relatively short period of time. We spent an afternoon at the Western Development Museum, a comprehensive look at the Saskatchewan of old and some of the crazy inventions that came out of this province. (Anyone care to drive a wind-powered car that reached 3 km/hour at top speed, or one that has a giant barrel on the roof filled with straw gas?!)

Parking no problem

A whiskey for me and water for my horse

I should have known Saskatoon would be cool. My brother, always a trend-setter, has lived here for ten years, coyly down-playing the city, “it’s okay” he always says. Now I know why, it’s been a clever ploy to keep others away, to keep the city his.

Fare thee well Saskatoon, your secrets are safe with us. Now we’re off to find some farmers and wheat fields.

You really can see forever..

On a clear day you can see forever

Bad beats, running good, running back to Saskatoon

Dapper Dan was a gamblin’ man
A slick card dealer out of Birmingham
He got into trouble and went on the run
To Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
–author unknown

I defy anyone from  my era to take the Yellowhead Highway west from Edmonton to Saskatoon without the voice of Burton Cummings, mile after straight-and-flat-mile, reverberating  through their head off the great prairie, like a bad acid flashback, singing the iconic Guess Who song.

Until now you’ve read about the Meandering Maloneys great adventure from the Dame’s point of view– convivial, upbeat– but lacking the grounding of a male perspective. The Dude,who most of you know is a glass-half-empty-guy, notes that the wild rose is off the bloom in Alberta’s oil city. Old time Edmontonians are laughing off the declining  price of oil with been-there-done-that-shrugs while the newbies giggle nervously at any suggestion the boom is over.

The boom is still on at the Yellowhead Casino poker room. The 2-5 no limit Hold ’em game starts in the afternoon and goes all night. The Dame, who is not a fan of all-night poker games, tapped the Dude on the shoulder at about nine-o’clock indicating it was time to head home to the Grey Ghost. The Dude coolly negotiated three more hands to play his button and promptly hit the ignorant end of the Bad Beat, which unfortunately is capped in Alberta. Still, a nice to start the trip with some Alberta money in the jeans.

Highway 16 East cuts through the prairie like an asphalt anaconda, its head always out of sight over the distant horizon. Weird whistling aside,,the Mean Towing  Machine has performed admirably, pulling the Grey Ghost with a belligerent diesel snarl. Riding the snake. Running smooth all the way to Saskatoon.

House of Cards


Weird whistling sounds and a BIG egg

              Do I need a passport?

It now feels real. This traveling thing. So far we’ve been taking baby steps. A few days camping in Osoyoos, the idea of home so close. Then off to Edmonton – friends, family, home-cooked meals by Mom, a few golf games, hey we can do this.

As we cross the border into Saskatchewan, the whistling starts. This weird high-pitched sound that makes the dog cock his head in confusion. We continuously open and close the back truck window to confirm the sound is still there and secretly hope it will just go away. To calm our nerves and give the truck a chance to smarten up, we stop to eat and see The Egg. You know the egg or more correctly “Pysanka”, it’s what put Vegreville Alberta on the map (that and really great French toast at the Albert’s restaurant but that could just be me).

Stomach’s full, Egg viewed and photographed we stop at a mechanic’s shop in town. We need the mechanic, between the two of us we can barely fill the vehicle with gas and get the trailer hitched up. The mechanic advises something will indeed have to be done, something about pistons, air flow, yada, yada, yada, but the whistling does not pose imminent danger. Get it checked in Saskatoon, the city of bridges and apparently mechanical whistling guru’s.

Getting to the Gordon Howe RV park in the centre of Saskatoon in rush hour traffic. Now that poses imminent danger.

Carved Miranda enjoys the worlds largest Ukrainian Egg

Carved Miranda enjoys the world’s largest Pysanka

The Dog asks if the Egg is as big as his head

The Dog asks if the Egg is as big as his head

Hmmm, did someone say golf

Golf is a cruel sport, made crueler by the fact that you have absolutely no one to blame but yourself for whatever the final tally is on the scorecard.

All my family members are better golfers than me (except you DWB bless your heart), the Dude is a better golfer than me, despite taking up the sport about 7 years ago and having a swing that resembles the line in the hokey-pokey song where you “turn yourself around”.

Golf, that evil, insidious sport, gets in your blood. You can go from zero to hero in the space of the 7th and 8th hole. You can have Cheezies and a Diet Pepsi for your mid-game lunch and NOBODY cares, it’s fantastic.

Now which of my family is the best golfer…hey I said I was a bad golfer, not crazy.

Number one son takes a swing in Stony Plain

The Dude ponders his next shot

The Dame works on her form

The Zen of dog walking

The pier at dawn Lois Hole Provincial Park

I gotta peaceful easy feeling….

….and the dawn’s early light

Meandering has meant a change in the Dame and Dog routine. Having a big field next door made it easy, out the front door he went, business completed, all good. You’ve gotta plan things now. Like potential routes, like your appearance, tattered sweat pants and a hoody doesn’t cut it in the RV world. Windbreakers, shorts and logo’d t-shirts of where you’ve been. The Dog is easy, give him a light post, a patch of grass and some random dog’s butt to sniff and he’s happy.

But something magical happened the other morning when we set out to find the right light post and grass patch. We found Zen along the Sturgeon river. Is that where Zen has been hiding you’re probably asking yourselves and friends I do believe it has been. It’s quiet, it has birds, lot’s of them, all singing merrily in the morning and do you know even though I hadn’t had my first coffee of the day yet. I enjoyed it, every single chirp, tweet and caw. It was peaceful, beautiful and strangely moving. So Alberta, I forgive you for the snow, the Oiler’s however, I can’t forgive.

Was the election a snow job?

I’m sure my youngest brother Wee Willie will say the snow today is retribution by the heavens for electing an NDP government in Alberta. I think it’s actually a test. A test to see how we react to crisis, a crisis of no heat and a snow storm outside our house on wheels. We did what anyone would do, use our lifeline, call an expert. Thanks Ken, who knew that you have to click on the “gas heat” button on the thermostat and that the electric heat was actually linked to the air conditioning. Now if I had only packed my boots.

The calm before the storm

The calm before the storm

Lunch on the picnic table anyone?

Lunch on the picnic table anyone?

Mine’s bigger than yours

Artsy Photo of trees because we're from BC

Artsy Photo of trees because we’re from BC

Okay, they say everything is bigger in Alberta, or is it Texas? Either way, the RV park we are staying at has a whole lot of massive motorhomes taking up real estate here. The BC plates don’t help, they already think we’re granola eating, pot-smoking, NDP-loving commies here, having a small unit isn’t helping. At least our dog is bigger than theirs.